Update: July 2016

Thom Tom Sullivan Poet Poetry 2016

I’ve been away from the blog for a month or two, as I’ve been occupied with a few writing projects.

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In mid-June, I was a featured writer at the Meet the Writers Festival, an annual festival for middle- and high-school students that’s been run by the South Australian English Teachers Association (SAETA) for the last 23 years. The festival, which was held at the Adelaide Convention Centre, gave hundreds of our State’s young readers and writers the opportunity to meet, listen to and ask questions of some wonderful local and interstate authors – much like our annual Writers’ Week. It’s an event that’s a great gift from our State’s English teachers.

This year the other featured writers were Janeen Brian, Phil Cummins, Archie Fusillo, Roseanne Hawke, Jack Heath, Don Henderson, Greg Holfeld, Christobel Mattingly, Ruth Starke and Claire Zorn – some of whom I read at school myself.

The four sessions I ran gave me a chance to talk to students about my own writing, offer some tips for writers and creators, and read a couple of poems. It was a fun day, and I especially enjoyed my conversations with young people who have the same enthusiasm for writing that I remember having as a high-school student.

You can find some very complimentary student reflections on the festival here.

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Since then I’ve been editing a collection of poems for a friend and working through the final drafts (at this stage, at least) of what should become my first full length collection of poems. Once a final draft is done, the manuscript will be ushered out into the world in search of a home. And gladly – it’s long overdue (though the maturation time has been well worth it), and there’re a bunch of poems in there I’m looking forward to putting into people’s hands.

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This week Australian Book Review released a set of podcasts for its national ‘States of Poetry’ project. Each podcast features an Australian poet talking about, then reading, one of their poems. You can listen to me read my poem ‘Suburban Panopticon’ here. And you can find the Adelaide Writer’s Week 2016 session featuring five of the six South Australian ‘States of Poetry’ poets here – that is, Aidan Coleman, Jelena Dinic, Jill Jones, Kate Llewellyn and me.

On the ABR site, you’ll also find new podcasts for some of my favourite contemporary Australian poets, including: Ken Bolton, Michael Farrell, Toby Fitch, Sarah Holland-Batt, Jill Jones, Nathan Shepherdson and Fiona Wright.

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Finally, on 16 August I’ll be appearing as a guest at The Lee Marvin Readings here in Adelaide, along with Pam Brown (Sydney), Kent MacCarter (Melbourne) and Dominic Symes. The readings take place every Tuesday night in alternate months, at the Experimental Art Foundation’s Dark Horsey Bookshop. I well remember attending the readings when they were held at the De La Catessen Gallery in Anster Street, Adelaide, as early as 2007, so it’s been nice to become a somewhat regular guest in recent years. The readings feature the best of Adelaide’s new writing – poetry and prose. You can find the full program for the August readings here.

NaPoWriMo: a Judgment

Thanks to everyone who read, followed, liked or commented on the blog during the April NaPoWriMo project. I enjoyed reading other poets’ contributions day by day. I also enjoyed the impetus to write – even sketching a poem can have that sense of lifting the top of your head off, to borrow Emily Dickinson’s phrase. And the project provoked some useful writing: some of it within the project, some going on alongside it.

I was overwhelmingly relieved to reach the end of the month. Marshalling the time and energy to write a poem a day (even a very draft one) was exacting. I usually abide by the adage “never say never”, but this was my NaPoWriMo finale. That said, it was a reminder of the possibilities of the poem-a-day concept: AR Ammons’ Tape for the Turn of the Year and David Lehman’s The Evening Sun are fair examples .

For those who read the poems (some or all of them), I worked hard to make sure that each contained at least some phrase, image or idea that I thought would reward a reader. We’re all time-poor, with so many worthwhile things to read, and there’s a responsibility in that for any writer.

One welcome extravagance was my daily search for an “entremet” – a suggested poem to complement the one I’d posted. It threw me back into the headlights of some of my early favourite poets, Tom Shapcott and Tomas Tranströmer, as well as Michael Leunig’s breezy “Rustle Crow”.

Perhaps the most productive aspect of the project has been an emerging sense of the poetry I want to write from here – probably poems in quite a different mode, forgiving though it has been for the purposes of a project like this. So, we’ll see what comes next. I hope you enjoyed the poems, such as they are …


  • Ammons, AR, 1994, Tape for the Turn of the Year, WW Norton & Co., New York.
  • Lehman, D, 2002, The Evening Sun: a Journal in Poetry, Scribner Poetry, New York.

NaPoWriMo: Not a Disclaimer

This is, notwithstanding, a disclaimer. The title honours a 2006 article by Western Australian poet John Kinsella, entitled “Line Breaks and Back-Draft: Not a Defence of a Poem”. Despite its title, Kinsella’s article does offer a response to criticisms of his poem, “And Everyone Gathered in Objection Yet Again”. More interestingly, it offers insights into his writing process and objectives:

That’s what interests me: keeping enough of the form for it to be recognised as coming out of some kind of “tradition”, but radicalising enough to question the heritage and the need for variation itself.

April 1 is the beginning of the annual National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) creative writing project. The project began in the United States in 2003, and asks participating poets to write a poem a day throughout the month of April. I’ve enjoyed following friends’ contributions to the project for some years, and posted a poem a day during April 2015. I’ve decided to join the project again this year, because I enjoy (and probably need) the daily discipline and the provocation to write.

So, on to my disclaimer. Like last year, I plan to post poems of 100 or so words in length, based on a phrase, image or concept that I’ve had in mind for a while, or an idea that arises during the day – or, failing that, a writing prompt from @hourlyprompts. Each poem will be a single “prose” paragraph, as that’s the way I usually draft the kind of poem I intend to write and post. All of the poems will be “very draft”. That’s the nature (and some of the attraction) of the project: a sort of “go[ing] on your nerve”, even if it’s not quite what Frank O’Hara had in mind.

The project should be as much about encouraging the reading of poetry, as the writing of poems, so I also intend to include a link to an online poem (at least) that’s in some way complementary, as an entremet.

Stay tuned for the poems…


Poetry Reading: Payneham Library

Tom Thom Sullivan Poet Poetry Adelaide 001Next Sunday, 3 April 2016 I’m featuring as the guest poet at a Friendly Street Poets Community Reading at Payneham Library. Friendly Street, which has hosted poetry readings since 11 November 1975 (that infamous date) is supported in the event by the City of Norwood, Payneham and St Peters. I’ll be reading with Russ Talbot, Cary Hamlyn, David Mortimer, JV Birch and Louise Nicholas. The reading will run from 1:30 p.m.–4:00 p.m., and will include afternoon tea and an open mic session. Full details are available from Friendly Street’s events page.

I’m particularly delighted to be reading at what is my “home” library. At this stage, I plan to read previously unread and/or unpublished poems only, with a focus on suburban settings. Community readings at Payneham Library have been well supported by poets, audiences and the library in the past, so I offer every encouragement to come along and enjoy the afternoon.


On the Adelaide Writers’ Week Poetry Podcast

A podcast of the 2016 Adelaide Writers’ Week poetry reading is now available.

The Monday afternoon poetry reading is an enduring and eagerly anticipated tradition at Adelaide Writers’ Week. In past years, it has showcased interstate and international guests, however, this year poet and novelist Peter Goldsworthy chose five South Australian poets to read at the session, and appear in a complementary poetry feature for the March edition of Australian Book Review. The feature is part of ABR’s ‘States of Poetry’ project, a federally arranged project, funded by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, that will include poets from all states and territories.

Tom Thom Sullivan Poet Adelaide Writers Week Poetry Reading 1.jpg

I’m among the poets who were chosen to appear at the reading, along with Aidan Coleman, Jelena Dinic, Jill Jones and Kate Llewellyn. The reading, like all Writers’ Week sessions, was a free event and took place in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden. The poetry reading is well attended year-after-year, but this year’s crowd was the largest I’ve seen. Details for the podcast are as follows:

Laura Kroetsch: Director’s introduction (0:00)

Peter Goldsworthy: Chair (0:17)

Aidan Coleman (2:40) @AidanColeman4

Jelena Dinic (17:06)

Jill Jones (28:48) @_jill_jonesblog

Kate Llewellyn (40:50)

Thom Sullivan (53:12)

One poem by each poet appears in the March 2016 print (“dead tree”) edition of ABR, along with a poem by Ken Bolton. A further four poems by each poet will be published on ABR’s website as part of the ‘States of Poetry’ project (forthcoming). ‘States of Poetry’ anthologies for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Victoria and Queensland are already accessible online.

Tom Thom Sullivan Poet Adelaide Writers Week Poetry Reading 2

I’m somewhat sympathetic to Philip Larkin’s view that “[h]earing a poem, as opposed to reading it on the page, means you miss so much – the shape, the punctuation, the italics, even knowing how far you are from the end.” With that in mind, I’m happy to indicate where the poems I read during the session can be found in print and/or online, including a poem by American poet AR Ammons (1926-2001):

“Homo Suburbiensis” (Cordite)

“Threshold” (forthcoming)

“Freehold” (The Best Australian Poems 2015, Black Inc, 2015)

“In Camera” (Australian Book Review, online and March 2016 print edition)

“The City Limits” (AR Ammons)

“Carte Blanche” (Cordite, The Best Australian Poems 2014, Black Inc, 2014)

“All Things Go” (Australian Book Review)

“Nothing Doing” (Australian Love Poems, Inkerman & Blunt, 2013)

As stated by Peter at the end of the session, South Australian poets and ABR’s ‘States of Poetry’ project will feature at Writers’ Week in future years. It’s an addition to a venerable tradition that’s well worth applauding.


A Poet’s Guide to Adelaide Writers’ Week

Poet, novelist and raconteur Peter Goldsworthy is curating a feature on South Australian poetry for this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week. A poetry reading will take place on Monday, 29 February, at 5:00 p.m., and will be complemented by a feature on South Australian poetry in a forthcoming edition of Australian Book Review. I’m among the poets who will appear at the reading, along with Aidan Coleman, Jelena Dinic, Jill Jones and Kate Llewellyn.

This is (I hope) a small encouragement to come along to Writers’ Week to enjoy the best of cosmopolitan and literary Adelaide – the city that Salman Rushdie described as the perfect setting for a horror story, and Nobel laureate (and now resident) JM Coetzee described as “paradise on earth”.

There are over 80 writers featuring at Writers’ Week, including (those who piqued my immediate interest) Gail Jones, Gerald Murnane, Lauren Groff, Charlotte Wood, Gregory Day and Peggy Frew.

For those with a particular interest in poetry, there’s also acclaimed New Zealand poet Bill Manhire, Australian poet Chris Wallace Crabbe, New Zealand poet and novelist Anna Smaill, and Jonathan Bate, the author of a recent biography on Ted Hughes – who has his own often-recounted connection to Adelaide Writers’ Week.

I intend to get to as many sessions as I can – and to make a few notations here and on Twitter (@thomsullivansa).


  • Kannemeyer, MD, 2012, “An Intimate Matter for JM Coetzee”, The Australian, 17 November 2012.